How to know it’s time for a chimney cleaning

Homeowners could notice a smoky or soot smell as they use their chimney this winter. If so, it’s time for a clean, says Charles Bedi, owner of highly rated Kingsborough Chimney Sweep Inc. in Cary, Ill.

Black staining around the opening of a fireplace or a slow draft are other tell-tale signs, Bedi says.

“If you are unsure, have it inspected,” Charlie Hall, president of highly rated Winston’s Chimney Service in Arlington, Va., says. “Video inspection is the most thorough way to get this done.”   

Hall says this type of inspection is particularly valuable for masonry chimneys.

“A masonry chimney is exposed to the exterior and there are many places on the interior [of the chimney] that deteriorates a result,” Hall says.

Jody Williams, co-owner of highly rated Complete Chimney Service Inc. in Stoughton, Mass., says it’s a good idea for homeowners to have their chimney check once a year and only cleaned if needed.

Bedi agrees and cites another important reason for annual checkups: “You can have structural changes from year to year that a professional can detect.”

An annual inspection will typically cost between $75 and $169 without the use of a camera. Using a camera will typically increase cost to as much as $199.   

Homeowners who anticipate a future clean can get it for less if they schedule it during off-peak times, Hall says. Those who purchase a sweep from February through August can expect to pay less than $200 for a service that can often run as high as $270. 

Williams says routine care done by a company you trust goes a long way toward keeping your chimney in good working order.

“Preventative maintenance is cheaper than repair,” Williams says. “And it’s a good idea to go with a consistent chimney company that can give you an inspection and clean.”


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Using specialized cameras and brushes, chimney sweeps can spot damage that homeowners might not see. (Photo courtesy of member Daniel M.)
Using specialized cameras and brushes, chimney sweeps can spot damage that homeowners might not see. (Photo courtesy of member Daniel M.)

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